The ultimate TDF Best Of. A trip down YouTube’s memory lane featuring Indurain, Boardman, LeMond, Pantani, Wiggo, Cav and… who’s that? IT’S STEPHEN ROCHE!
In order of race stage number rather than in order of best-ness.
1. Boardman beats Indurain – 1994, Stage 1
Prologue time trial. As Chris Boardman famously commented: “Everybody went for a three-week race, I went for seven minutes.”
2. Fast bicycle meets painful policeman – 1994, Stage 2
One of the most iconic crashes in all of cycle racing. Wilfried Nelissen sprints full pelt into a rather too casual policeman just before the finish line at Armentières.
3. Pelier and his parents – 1989, Stage 6
Hankies out time. Unknown rider Joël Pelier attacked with 180km still go and went on to win. He didn’t know his parents were at the finish line. His parents never watched him race before because Joël’s disabled brother requires full-time care.
4. The Indurain era ends suddenly – 1996, Stage 7
Some of the best cycling commentary of all time…
Duffield: “Is he having a mechanical problem?”
Roche: “No, no, no, no…legs.”
5. Rider protest – 1998, Stage 9
Dopers complaining about being caught. Okay, there was a bit more to it than that – the French police apparently aren’t very reasonable (who knew?)
6. Lance goes off-road – 2003, Stage 9
When the drugs don’t matter. Armstrong’s mountain bike and cyclocross skills were the saviours of him here.
7. Chiappucci’s bonkers breakaway – 1992, Stage 13
Replicating the feat of Fausto Coppi some 40 years earlier, Claudio ditched the peleton on the first climb of the day and never came back. 245km of solo breakaway over some massive mountains. Just unreal really.
8. Another Hinault strop – 1980, Stage 13
A dangerously cold and sodden stage with more (much more) than its fair share of pavé. Bernard Hinault tried to take control of things and get the stage neutralised but no-one co-operated. So he thought “sod it then” and went on to win anyway.
9. Hushovd’s descending skills – 2011, Stage 13
The magnifcently named Thor Hushovd stayed with the climbers on the way up and then simply left them for dead on the way back down. A fan favourite’s stage.
10. The most costly crash in TDF history – 1971, Stage 14
Luis Ocaña was well ahead of a struggling Eddie Merckx in the overall standings. But then Ocaña stacked it on a dodgy corner and had to resign from the race due to his injuries.
11. Fabio Casartelli RIP – 1995, Stage 15
This is one of the worst stages in the history of the Tour De France. Fabio wasn’t the first rider to die during the Tour (remember Tom Simpson) but his death was certainly the most brutal.
12. Pantani owns the Galibier – 1998, Stage 15
Bobby Julich: “He goes about 15 pedal strokes and then he turns around and looks back, and he has this smile on his face. I’ll never forget it. This smile.”
13. Little boy’s bag downs Armstrong – 2003, Stage 15
Lance: “It was a little boy, probably a 10- or 11-year-old kid, whose parents had bought a commemorative musette from the concession stand. And he was kinda flapping it back and forth, and he timed it just right, caught my handlebars, and down I go. The kid must have had a firm grip. He was, like, ‘Look, I don’t wanna lose this thing!’”
14. Eros Poli’s Ventoux breakaway – 1994, Stage 15
A big lad who plotted a cunning plan that somehow worked. Poli broke away from the peloton and reached Mont Ventoux about twenty minutes before them, the pack reduced his lead during the ascent of Ventoux but not by enough. Poli crossed the finish line first to scenes of general mayhem.
15. Lance points to the sky – 1995, Stage 18
Sorry to mention Fabio Casartelli’s death again but those who were around at that time will remember this finish line tribute on a stage that took place just two day’s after Casartelli’s death.
16. Schleck’s 60km breakaway – 2011, Stage 18
The forgotten man of modern cycle racing. A simple but simply stupid plan to attack with 60km still to go. It worked though and it’s a victory that will become regarded as one of the all time classics.
17. Yellow Wiggo leads out Rainbow Cav – 2012, Stage 18
Very probably the zenith of British bike racing. In a sometimes rather pedestrian Tour, this moment said it all about the dominance of our two greatest ever cyclists.
18. Cav’s finest hour – 2009, Stage 19
“Nobody could get near me.” This post-race interview is ace because you can visibly see how much the stage took out of him and how shell-shocked he is at it all.
19. Karma strikes the Tashkent Terror – 1991, Stage 21
After a racing career spent elbowing and shouldering rival sprinters into gutters and hoardings, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov finally took himself out. One of the most kinetic crashes ever caught on film. Ouch.
20. “IT’S STEPHEN ROCHE!” – 1987, Stage 21
Ah, Phil Liggett. He can be a bit of an Alan Patridge but this moment of commentary is shiver-inducingly fabulous. Stephen Roche hauling himself back up to the mountain finish of La Plagne to retain (just about!) the Yellow jersey and keep it away from Pedro Delgago.
21. LeMond’s eight seconds – 1989, Stage 21
The closest Tour De France of all time. We couldn’t finish this list with anything else could we?